Rights Protector

NAME: Madhu Goel Southworth
TITLE: Senior VP, Legal & Business Affairs
COMPANY: AMC and SundanceTV (AMC Networks)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Helped launch AMC Studios and its first show, The Walking Dead, and oversees its vast intellectual property portfolio. Renegotiated SundanceTV’s multiyear deal with the Sundance Institute for their Sundance Film Festival partnership in 2017.
QUOTABLE: “I’m very excited about my job every day. It’s fun to do what I do.”

A passion for intellectual property law, developed as a young associate at a law firm, led Madhu Goel Southworth into her first TV job, at A+E Networks more than a decade ago.

Madhu Goel Southworth

Madhu Goel Southworth

Ambitious and eager, she soon found herself recruited by a company that was redefining scripted programming with shows such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC Networks.

Today, she advises AMC and SundanceTV executives on a wide range of legal and business issues across the globe, from managing the IP portfolio for The Walking Dead to merchandising and consumer products, gaming, live events, digital web series and unscripted productions, rights and clearances, film acquisitions, marketing and ad sales.

Go-To Problem Solver

“So many meetings, if we’re looking to do something different, it’s like, ‘OK, we have to ask Madhu,’ ” Amy Goffin, director of advertising sales at AMC Networks, said. “And usually, from a legal standpoint, she’s very creative in figuring out ways to make things work for both AMC as well as for our partners that we’re working with.”

Southworth, who reports to AMC Networks general counsel Jamie Gallagher, didn’t start out looking to be in TV or entertainment law, as many might assume. “But this is where it took me. And what became my reality was so much bigger than what I had even imagined for myself,” Southworth said.

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Southworth grew up mostly in Illinois, though she lived in India for a couple of early years, with her grandparents, while her physician parents completed their medical residencies in the United States.

She earned her law degree at the University of Chicago Law School in 2001. Following a clerkship in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that began that September, her first job in a law firm was at Sidley Austin LLP in New York.

In 2004, she became an associate at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, with a promise she’d do intellectual property work. Frankfurt encouraged associates to bring in clients, which Southworth did. “All of my clients were authors, actors, writers, et cetera,” she said, so the firm transitioned her into the entertainment group from litigation.

A+E recruited her in 2007. She loved it there and remains close friends with many in her former department.

She started at AMC three weeks before the network green-lighted The Walking Dead, which was the first AMC Studios-owned production. The show has been a massive success, and has helped keep her busy from the beginning, when she worked on it seven (long) days a week for several months. Games, action figures, T-shirts, even theme park adaptations have resulted, some of the deals quite lucrative, she said. “Not only was it huge in the U.S. but it had equal worldwide appeal, and we control worldwide merchandising rights. So it was nice to be able to do some of those international deals as well.”

Gallagher, her boss, said: “Madhu is the consummate professional who is dedicated to serving her client groups while protecting the company at the same time. She has developed strong relationships with senior executives and their teams and is looked to for her judgment and counsel on business as well as legal matters.” He said she is “constantly seeking to learn new skills and develop new areas of expertise. I’m thrilled to have her as one of the key members of my senior team.”

Southworth said she feels at home in the AMC environment. “I really work with some of the brightest and kindest people in the industry,” she said.

She’s also determined to give back, and is well known for mentoring younger colleagues. Kendrick Coq, a law student at UCLA who worked in ad sales and marketing at AMC in 2017, became acquainted with Southworth when she advised a diversity and inclusion committee he co-chaired. “Ever since then she’s been a mentor to me, inside and outside of work, especially when I told her I was pursuing a legal career. She was super helpful and supported my decision the entire way,” Coq said.

She connected him with a lawyer she knew in Los Angeles and mentored him into obtaining a summer associate position at that lawyer’s firm, as a first-year student.

“I have her to thank for not only presenting me with the opportunity but also sponsoring me and help coaching me through that process, which is not something that happens often for law students. So I am extremely grateful for everything that she has done for me,” Coq said.

Giving Back in Many Ways

Southworth has a laundry list of give-back programs: She founded the legal internship program at AMC in 2009. She co-founded Lattice, a networking organization for senior in-house women counsel in media, entertainment and digital, and serves on the boards of ReelWorks, which educates disadvantaged youth through filmmaking, and of New York’s Town Hall.

Married to Devaraj Southworth, an entrepreneur, and the mother of daughters ages 7 and 4, her downtime is family time. “It’s family and friends and life,” she said. “I like to cook, I like to read.” On weekends, she and her older daughter attend a class in the ancient teachings of the Vedanta, the science of life.

“She gets a lot out of it, I get a lot out of it,” she said. “We do that together.”

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Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.